Axe junk food price cuts to tackle Scottish obesity, say experts

Two thirds of Scottish adults are overweight or obese. Picture: PA Photo/JupiterImages Corporation.
Two thirds of Scottish adults are overweight or obese. Picture: PA Photo/JupiterImages Corporation.
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A crack-down on junk food promotions and extra monitoring of children’s weight is urgently needed to combat Scotland’s record as one of the world’s most obese nations, health experts are warning.

The Scottish Government will be urged to introduce new laws to restrict price discounting and multi-pack offers on unhealthy food when the nation’s weight problem is discussed at the Scottish Parliament next week.

On Tuesday MSPs on Holyrood’s Health Committee will hear expert medical opinion about the impact that inactive lifestyles and excess weight is having on Scotland’s health.

In a submission to be presented at the meeting, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) has called for tackling obesity to be made a national priority and for Scottish Government funding for a nationwide plan to achieve healthier weight. According to the BDA, obesity rates in Scotland are amongst the highest in the world.

The organisation is concerned that budget cuts have led to some NHS boards getting rid of their weight management services and says other boards may be forced to follow suit.

Two thirds of Scottish adults are now either overweight or obese with the problem reducing life expectancy by up to 10-years and costing the Scottish NHS between £360million and £600million every year.

Children are also affected, with up to 16 per cent of primary one children weighing too much and a total of 28 per cent of children as a whole are overweight or obese.

Scotland has the highest prevalence of obesity in pregnant women when compared to 11 other European countries where BMI data available.

A submission from the Cancer Research charity points out that obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.

In its submission, the charity noted that temporary price reductions were “dominant across Scotland” when it came to less healthy food and drink.

“To effectively change the impact of price promotions on poor diet, a comprehensive review of the use of price promotions on HFSS foods (foods high in fat, salt or sugar) is needed including price reductions, extra product price promotions and premium promotions,” Cancer Research said.

“Given the competition between supermarkets, regulation is likely to be the most effective way to reduce unhealthy price promotions across Scotland.

“The problem is more acute in Scotland. Nearly 40 per cent of all calories, and around 53 per cent of regular soft drinks were purchased as a result of price promotions,” Last night Gregor McNie, senior public affairs manager for Cancer Research, said: “It’s worrying that those not obese or overweight are now in the minority in Scotland.”

The Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, Aileen Campbell said: “We have consistently called on the UK Government to ban junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed and we are looking at what further effective actions we can take within the powers available to us, including the use of multi-buy promotions.”